Apple’s Lightning is Basically Just Double-sided Micro-USB

Full disclosure: I am something of a fan of Apple products. I wrote this article on my iMac, I also own a couple of MacBook Pros and have a pair of jailbroken iPod Touches in my mobile arsenal. I don’t dislike Apple stuff, in fact I like the equipment – I just haven’t drunk proverbial Kool-Aid. If I found another laptop that was better suited to my requirements than a MacBook Pro and its manufacturer handed me the same discounts (I also dabble as an educator) and a free iPod Touch at purchase time then I might be swayed – they don’t, so I stick with Apple for my portable electronics.

When it comes to phones, I have, until now been an Android guy. The iPhone 5 will be my first iPhone and I am only purchasing it because I don’t want to wait any longer for my carrier to start selling the Galaxy SIII. The iPhone 5 looks great, it will get all of the best accessories and sooner or later it will be jailbroken, which will make it lots of fun to play with – I know I won’t be sorry about trading my malfunctioning piece of Pantech garbage for Apple’s latest smartphone… but I don’t need to like everything about it.

Apple’s dumping of the 30-pin dock connector was the right move. When you look at what each of those pins do, it becomes apparent that they didn’t need all of them – they kept them there to make it easier for accessory manufacturers to build compatible products. With the Lightning Adapter, Apple has dropped analog support – something that is not going to be a problem for the vast majority of users. Lightning is USB 2.0 technology, that means that the maximum throughput of 480 Mbps… exactly the same as Micro-USB and a whole lot slower than USB 3.0 (which has its own micro-port standard). If we look closely at the connector, we can see that the size is more or less the same as its non-proprietary cousin. Lightning might look a little more elegant, but at its core it is basically the same thing – the only difference, as far as I can tell, is that it can plug in both ways.

I am going to have to go ahead and agree with iFixIt’s Kyle Wiens, who seems to be of the opinion that Apple’s new standard is more about money and control than anything else. Third-party manufacturers need to pay licensing fees (typically $1-2 per device) to use Apple’s ports and Apple has the option of not granting licensing permission to devices of which it disapproves. Profit and being able to control a product’s hardware environment are good reasons for Apple to do what it is doing.

Personally, I would rather be able to use my old Micro-USB cables and see a lot less e-waste clogging up landfills than have the convenience of a two-sided port – but maybe that’s just me. Sure, in the not too distant future, once we have all collected a few more Lightning-compatible devices, this will probably cease to be an issue – but right now it feels like Apple missed an opportunity to hurt the Earth a little less.


About the author: C. S. Magor


C.S. Magor is the editor-in-chief and reporter at large for Uberreview and We Interrupt. He currently resides in a sleepy basin town in the Japanese countryside - where both his bank balance and the lack of space in his home are testament to his addiction to all things shiny.

Follow @csmagor on Twitter



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